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Ferry workers receive raise after 13 years

InSapphoWeTrust | Wikimedia Commons

Staten Island Ferry workers will receive their first raise since 2009 following the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association finalized negotiations with City Hall on Labor Day, Sept. 4.

Mayor Eric Adams’ administration accepted the new agreements after demands had been ignored since Mayor Michael Bloomberg held office in 2010.

The Adams administration and MEBA decided on a 16-year agreement, which included new contracts for the Staten Island Ferry’s 150 workers. The new contract is expected to be effective this October and will expire in January 2027.

The new contract included major salary raises, with captains’ salaries leaping from $71,000 to roughly $180,000. Assistant captains, mates and marine engineers’ salaries will increase to as much as $60,000 to $70,000.

Marine engineers, who make up half of the workforce, will see an increase similar to captains. Their salaries will range from $69,000 to over $180,000.

The wage increases come at a crucial time, as ferry workers have been living off the same salary for the last 13 years. Roland Rexha, secretary-treasurer of MEBA, noted that most workers often went into debt with no raise in sight — unable to keep up with rising inflation and living costs — all the while working 12-hour shifts six or seven days a week.

“This is a relief that they’re going to have to get their lives back in order,” Rexha said.

Adams also expressed his feelings at a press conference on the slip of the St. George Ferry Terminal.

“I don’t know how these guys made it 13 years without an increase in salary,” he said. “We are paying them for the sacrifices. God only knows how much their lives have been on hold.”

Aside from salary increases, workers will also be receiving back pay.

The amount of the back pay had been the subject of a year-long decision, starting with Judge Faye Lewis of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, who ruled in August 2022 that the marine engineers were “entitled to the prevailing wage in the private sector.”

Following the ruling, the decision was deferred to the NYC Comptroller’s Office, when in March 2023 Comptroller Brad Lander decided that the marine engineers must receive roughly $300,000, and chief marine engineers $1.2 million worth of back pay per person.

The MEBA then decided to create a final deal, which was eventually approved by the city. It included an agreement to distribute the back pay proposed by Lander evenly among the workers, to set the overtime rate to be lower than the city-wide time-and-a-half standard and to have workers’ hours go up from 32 to 40 hours per week, which follows the standard set by the U.S. Coast Guard.

These salary increases and back pays are expected to cost the city $103 million over the term of the contract. They also come with the hopes of improving service on the Staten Island Ferry, which operates 117 trips a day. Delays had become commonplace, as many frustrated workers quit to work at higher-paying private sector jobs.

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